Extra RAF jets sent to Med as Britain prepares to attack
BRITAIN will double its fleet of aircraft stationed in Cyprus if MPs vote in favour of air strikes over Syria on Wednesday.
The Ministry of Defence is planning to send at least two extra Tornado GR4 fighter jets and six Typhoon attack aircraft to RAF Akrotiri within days.
They will join the eight aircraft already stationed at the base conducting missions over Iraq and will be used to cut off the ‘snake’s head’ of Islamic State by using laser-guided missiles.
The Brimstone missiles, which can hit a small, fast-moving target, are fired from Tornados and only Britain and Saudi Arabia currently have the capability.
But last night it emerged that the UK may have as few as ten of the missiles – despite David Cameron saying they would make a unique contribution in the fight against Islamic State.
The figure – which was not confirmed by the MoD – raises doubts about the additional impact the RAF would be able to make by joining other coalition forces operating over the wartorn country.
However a defence source insisted there was a ‘sufficient stock’ of Brimstone missiles. Military planners at RAF Akrotiri and in London have already been working to identify key targets for the eight Tornados already there. They will start bombing in Syria within hours of a yes vote.
It is thought an extra spy plane to help identify jihadists on a British ‘kill list’ may also provide extra support.
Yesterday Michael Fallon told the Daily Mail that it was ‘nonsense’ to suggest the UK did not have enough planes to make a significant contribution in the war against Islamic State in Syria. His comments came after experts said 24 Tornado aircraft would be needed for Britain to mount an effective fight and MP Julian Lewis, chair of the defence select committee, said the UK’s contribution would be ‘marginal’.
Speaking at Lancaster House in London, Mr Fallon said: ‘We have plenty of planes, and if Parliament agrees we will send more planes to the fight.’
The Typhoons, currently stationed at RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland and RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire, have been protecting the UK against Russian provocation.
They are only equipped with 500lb Paveway bombs –and not the state-of-the-art £100,000 Brimstone missiles which the Government says makes Britain’s contribution so unique.
It is likely they will replace some of the eight Tornados currently flying over Iraq, to free them up to fly over Syria.
The Brimstone missile destroys its target with a contained explosion that generates relatively little debris.
It is far more sophisticated than the American’s Hellfire weapons, which generate a large field of shrapnel when they explode.
The Brimstone was used against Colonel Gaddafi’s regime in Libya in 2011.
The RAF will use the missile to take out specific targets in Syria and concentrate on the ‘upper tier’ of IS leadership in their stronghold.
In some cases the US and French jets have identified targets but have been unable to attack them for fear of causing civilian casualties. The Brimstone should mean that more of these targets can be destroyed.
‘We have plenty of planes’
Big hitter: A Tornado with Brimstones under its fuselage